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Magic Avoid Sweep, Take Game 4 96-92

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Instead of laying down, the Orlando Magic showed a lot of fight, winning game 4 to extend the Eastern Conference Finals to a fifth game.  The Magic blew a late seven-point lead in regulation but outplayed the Boston Celtics in overtime and came away with a 96-92 victory. Dwight Howard led the Magic with 32 points, 16 rebounds and 4 blocks. Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 32 points of his own.

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NBA Stats

The Magic finally got off to a good start in Game 4. They scored 31 points on 12-of-19 shooting and hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter. That’s an effective field goal percentage of 71.1 percent, which is unheard of in this series. This was quite the contrast from the first two games of the series, which included a 12-point first quarter in Game 3.

Orlando consistently went up by 8 and 10 points but were inconsistent when they got to the point, letting the Celtics immediately back into the game on each occasion, which included a late-game collapse that nearly cost them the series. The Magic, who trailed by two, 76-74,with just over five minutes to go, went on an 11-2 run to take a seven-point lead with just under three minutes to go. Boston closed regulation on an 8-1 run and even had a chance to win the game after Jameer Nelson missed a jumper with 17 seconds to play. The Celtics turned to Paul Pierce, who was fantastic throughout the game, but the Magic collapsed on him and he couldn’t get a shot off.

Nelson hit the first two 3-pointers in overtime and the Magic survived two Ray Allen 3-pointers because Howard made two put-backs down the stretch. Despite getting some good looks, the Celtics made just two field goals in overtime.

Orlando’s captains – Howard and Nelson – were fantastic. Nelson, who played poorly in games 2 and 3, won the Point Guard battle on Monday night. Many think the Magic need a bigger Point Guard, who is more of a pass-first player, but Nelson proved those doubters wrong in Game 4. Nelson scored 23 points and made three clutch 3-pointers, two of which came in overtime. Nelson was very aggressive throughout the game, consistently driving into the paint and finding open teammates, prompting Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy to say he created a “majority of the offense.” Nelson wasn’t without mistakes. At times, he made some poor decisions – he took some bad shots and turned the ball over six times – but the positives far outweighed the negatives. His play caused Celtics Coach Doc Rivers to say Nelson “dominated the entire game.” He finished with 23 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds.

Dwight Howard quieted his critics. Well at least for a day. Howard was dominant, dropping 32 points on 13-of-19 shooting. He also grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked 4 shots. Howard won’t be best remembered in Game 4 for those numbers or for his usual excellent performance on the defensive end – he will be remembered for the big plays he made on the offensive end down the stretch. He’s often criticized because he can’t be counted on down the stretch, but his two put-backs in overtime proved to be two of the biggest buckets of the entire game. Howard also showed a bit of a mean streak and he’s been heavily criticized for his apparent lack of one.  He wouldn’t take anything from Rasheed Wallace or Kevin Garnett, ignoring their constant jawing and when he was fouled or called for an iffy foul, he remained composed and even frustrated Garnett into picking up a technical foul. Sure, you still can’t count on Howard from the free throw line, where he shot just 6-of-14 on Monday night, but he proved that he can keep his cool and come through in a clutch situation – and not just on the defensive end.

Game Notes:

  • Orlando still had plenty of problems. They still had trouble with their rotations on defense and gave the Celtics too many open shots.
  • Throughout most of the game, the Magic couldn’t contain Paul Pierce (32 points) and down the stretch, they couldn’t contain Ray Allen (22 points).
  • J.J. Redick was huge for the Magic. At one point, he scored 11 straight points and made two huge 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
  • Vince Carter had a nightmare of a game. He made mistakes on both ends of the floor and finished with just 3 points on 1-of-9 shooting.
  • After being shut down by Kevin Garnett in the first three games, Rashard Lewis showed some signs of life. He finished with 13 points.
  • Van Gundy went to Brandon Bass at the Four instead of Marcin Gortat, claiming Bass “brings a lot of energy to the game.”

Next Up: The Magic return home to host Game 5 Wednesday night.

Final Thought: The Magic showed a lot of fight but they’ve still got a long way to go.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, a contributor on the Fansided Front Page and on Sir Charles In Charge. Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily. You can download the HTD app here).